A Virginia judge’s 6-year-old twins are kidnapped by someone who wants to influence an important ruling he’s soon to make—and doesn’t mind putting him through the emotional wringer in the process.
The abduction has all the hallmarks of a professional job. Someone convincingly impersonating Alison Sampson picks up Sam and Emma from their Montessori school in a vehicle that looks just like hers, transfers the children to another car a discreet distance away, and texts Scott Sampson to warn him to say nothing until he receives further instructions. These come in the form of a series of directives about how to conduct himself in the matter of Rayshaun Skavron, an excruciatingly unremarkable midlevel drug dealer. Sampson’s dismay over the widening gap between how he’s commanded to act and how he thinks he ought to be acting is matched by his increasingly frantic attempts to keep his dilemma secret from the police, the U.S. Marshals, even Alison’s family members. Every step he takes enmeshes him even more deeply in danger from his boss’s boss, from influential congressmen, from predatory online newshounds, and of course from the criminals themselves, who demonstrate early and often that they’re not afraid to hurt his children to keep him in line. Parks (The Fraud, 2015, etc.) dispenses plot twists with a poisoned eyedropper, sparing no detail as Sampson describes his pain, his increasingly paranoid suspicions of people he’d been trusting for years with secrets now grown too hot to handle, and his supremely frustrating inability to take the direct counteractions that he gradually becomes convinced are absolutely necessary.
The nerve-shredding never lets up for a minute as Parks picks you up by the scruff of the neck, shakes you vigorously, and repeats over and over again till a climax so harrowing that you’ll be shaking with gratitude that it’s finally over.